compressor aficionados (10) – Vladislav Goncharov

Vlad, what was your very first DSP plugin development, how did it once started and what was your motivation behind?

My first plugin was simple a audio clipper. But I decided to not release it. So my first public released plugin was Molot compressor. I was a professional software engineer but with zero DSP knowledge (my education was about databases, computer networks and stuff like that). I played a guitar as a hobby, recorded demos at home and one day I found that such thing as audio plugins exist. I was amazed by their amount and also by the fact that there are free plugins too. And I realised that one day I can build something like this myself. I just had to open a DSP book, read a chapter or two and it was enough to start. So my main motivation was curiosity, actually.

Was that Molot compressor concept inspired by some existing devices or a rather plain DSP text book approach?

That days there was a rumour that it’s impossible to make good sounding digital compressor because of aliasing and stuff. I tried to make digital implementation as fluid as possible, without hard yes/no logic believing this is how perfect digital compressor should sound. And the way I implemented the algorithm made the compressor to sound unlike anything I heard before. I didn’t had any existing devices in my head to match and I didn’t watch textbook implementations too. The sound was just how I made it. I did 8 versions of the algorithm trying to make it as usable as possible from user point perspective (for example “harder” knee should sound “harder”, I removed dual-band implementation because it was hard to operate) and the last version of the project was named “comp8”.

Did you maintained that specific sound within Molot when you relaunched it under the TDR joint venture later on? And while we are at it: When and how did that cooperation with Fabien started?

TDR Molot development was started with the same core sound implementation as original Molot had. But next I tried to rework every aspect of the DSP to make it sound better but keep the original feel at the same time. It was very hard but I think I succeeded. I’m very proud of how I integrated feedback mode into TDR Molot for example. About Fabien: He wrote me to discuss faults in my implementation he thought I had (I’m not sure it was Molot or Limiter 6), we also discussed TDR Feedback Compressor he released that days, we argued against each other but what’s strange the next day we both changed our minds and agreed with our opposite opinions. It was like “You were right yesterday. No, I think you were right”. Next there was “KVR Developer Challenge” and Fabien suggested to collaborate and create a product for this competition. That was 2012.

And the Feedback Compressor was the basis for Kotelnikov later on, right?

No, Kotelnikov is 100% different from Feedback Compressor. Fabien tried to make the sound of feedback compressor more controllable and found that the best way to achieve this is just to change the topology to feedforward one. It’s better to say, Feedback Compressor led to Kotelnikov. Also the interesting fact, early version of Kotelnikov had also additional feedback mode but I asked Fabien to remove it because it was the most boring compressor sound I ever heard. I mean if you add more control into feedback circuit, it just ruins the sound.

Must have been a challenge to obtain such a smooth sound from a feed-forward topology. In general, what do you think makes a dynamic processor stand out these days especially but not limited to mastering?

I think, it’s an intelligent control over reactions. For example Kotelnikov has some hidden mechanisms working under the hood, users don’t have access to them but they help to achieve good sound. I don’t think it’s good idea to expose all internal parameters to the user. There must be hidden helpers just doing their job.

I so much agree on that! Do you see any new and specific demand concerning limiting and maximizing purposes? I’m just wondering how the loudness race will continue and if we ever going to see a retro trend towards a more relaxed sound again …

I think even in perfect loudness normalized world most of the music is still consumed in noisy environments. The processing allowing the quietest details to be heard and cut through background noise, to retain the feel of punch and density even at low volumes is in demand these days. Loudness maximizers can do all this stuff but in this context they act like old broadcast processors. In my opinion, the loudness war will continue but it’s not for overall mix loudness anymore but how loud and clear each tiny detail of the mix should be.

Can we have a brief glimpse on what you are currently focused on, DSP development wise?

You may take a look at Tokyo Dawn Labs Facebook posts. We shared a couple of screenshots some time ago. That’s our main project to be released someday. But also we work on a couple of dynamic processors in parallel. We set high mark on the quality of our products so we have to keep it that high and that’s why the development is so slow. We develop for months and months until the product is good enough to be released. That’s why we usually don’t have estimation dates of release.

Related Links

the many shapes of delay

VRS-23

About the different applications of audio delay effects.

There are quite a number of different types and applications for the audio delay effect in the audio production ranging from plain technical delay application up to all the musical and creative ranges of application. The rather technical or correctional delay typically is a plain digital delay which serves as a sample accurate alignment tool. Such alignments might be necessary for example for plug-in delay compensation (when a plug-in introduces latency) or during the mixing process to align a group of recorded tracks or samples. The so-called pre-delay can also be seen as an alignment sort of thing where the direct source signal has to be aligned in a positive or negative manner in relation to a processed signal, e.g. in a reverb effect. [Read more…]

I do believe in feedback

If I would have to state just one single universal principle which life as a whole rests upon then I would probably refer to the principle of feedback. But don’t worry, I don’t want to indulge in rather esoteric directions here but just move on a little bit towards basic system theory and how this relates to audio processing.

(source: wikipedia.org)

According to classical control theory, such systems are taking its output information and feeding it back in to the process input and that way closing the loop – hence the name closed loop system. In DSP audio land, the information is the audio signal itself and the audio (feedback) path constitutes the closed loop system. Audio signal processors such as feedback compressors or guitar amp effects are good examples for specific applications. While the control theory provides a lot of guidance for closed loop systems e.g. on handling differential equations and stability criteria, this can get pretty much nasty in practise because of the potential manifold of feedback loops in the circuit and not just only the main audio path. [Read more…]

NastyDLA – final teaser and release info

[Read more…]

NastyDLA – technical architecture

NastyDLA - technical architecture

simplified technical architecture

Internally, NastyDLA consists of quite a bunch of DSP processing building blocks which as a whole are summing up to an authentic signal path simulation of it’s analog models. The blocks and the according signal flow are shown in the diagram above. Basic signal flow goes from left to right except the feedback path which goes in the opposite direction.

With NastyDLA, signal path coloration already starts in the input stage which provides a complete model of both, frequency and phase response as well as dynamic saturation. It’s located in the dry path but all nonlinear processing and coloring can be disabled on demand so it remains as a simple input volume control then. But while switched in, the input stage can greatly contribute on getting the processed signal to fit right into a mix. [Read more…]

NastyDLA – some tape delay fun

To make up a complete and sustaining sequence out of  some melodic pattern is a standard task for the electronic musician. The good old tape delay is his best friend then, providing not only consistent and sustainable echos which are glueing nicely with the original signal but also offering some realtime modulation possibilities as well, to animate some maybe rather static sources.

In this short demo a static pattern is used and NastyDLA is going to be in charge as a tape delay replacement. The chorus is not used in this example but the plug-ins coloring possibilities are shown to some extend: After some bars the timbre of the delay feedback loop changes to a higher pitch and then to a lower one (and vice versa) while simultaneously the feedback amounts are going to change. To the end when the pattern stops, the “tape speed” is slowed down first and accelerated back again afterwards to demonstrate its artifact-free modulation capabilities.

Note how smooth the saturation behaves when driven into self oscillation w/o the usual amount of aliasing artifacts. The delay line generation in this example is set to “dual mono” mode (with 8th to the left and dotted 8th to the right) and the time modulations can be done separate per channel. All animations were done in realtime with host automation and in general all plug-in parameters can be automated in the host.

introducing NastyDLA

There are just a few audio effects available that are capable of instantly turning a small and wimpy riff into something big and meaningful. One of them is the classic chorus/echo combination. Beside the individual classic echo or chorus devices these combined devices were historically build around true tape or bucket brigade delays.

From today’s production standards perspective they might be easily overseen (feature wise) but on the other hand they are still pretty much demanded due to their specific and warm tone and this unique sound quality is probably the charm which still today attracts producers and audio engineers to use them in their actual music productions.

NastyDLA is going to follow this path and recreates all the specific tone qualities while adding just some few but well selected modern features. The plug-in implements some of the most distinctive and much appreciated sonic effects generated by these devices:

  • classic chorus and echo effects
  • authentic signal path coloration
  • tape-delay style feedback and saturation

NastyDLA applies gentle feedback driven delay effects, performs smooth audio signal modulations and adds extra harmonics and saturation effects. It will be available as a freeware VST plug-in for Win32 compatible systems later this autumn.

related links: the classic chorus echo device

from phase alignment to delay

In the recent article from phasing to phase alignment I had a closer look to what the Little Labs IBP actually does and hinted that in principle it could be easily extended to a plain but already musical sounding delay unit. And in fact, given the digital version, this could easily be done by some rather simple routing and addition: [Read more…]

compressor gain control principles

A short compendium on digital audio compression techniques.

Basic compressor configurations

Compression vs. limiting

Technically speaking the same principles are used in audio signal limiting and compression processors but just the transfer curves and envelope follower settings are different. Ultra fast attack rates and high ratio amounts are used for limiting purposes which causes just very few peaks to pass on a certain threshold.

In digital implementations limiting processors can be more strict due to look-ahead and clever gain prediction functions which guarantees that no peak information passes the threshold. That is called brickwall limiting then.

[Read more…]